A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran
A demonstrator steps on an Israeli flag during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran. (photo credit:REUTERS)


Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham rebuffed German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel’s effort at getting Tehran to accept Israel’s right to exist.

Gabriel, at the start of a three-day visit to Tehran on Monday, urged Iran to improve its relationship with Israel if it wanted to establish closer economic ties with Germany and other Western powers. He is also Germany’s economy and energy minister.

“Questioning this state’s [Israel’s] right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept,” he said, adding that for Berlin and Tehran to improve ties it was necessary to talk about human rights.

Afkham responded on Monday saying, “The main goal of German vice chancellor’s visit to Iran is a discussion of the prospects of mutual cooperation; we quite naturally have our own concerns and views on existing threats, including the Zionist regime’s threats and the roots of the crises in the region.

“We have totally different views from Germany on certain regional issues in the Middle East and we have explicitly expressed our viewpoints in different negotiations; this is not something new,” she told the Iranian students news agency, Fars reported.

Gabriel’s comments caused controversy in Iran, according to Fars.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday defended the nuclear deal reached with world powers in the Islamic Republic’s hard-liner-dominated parliament.

He said most of Iran’s conditions had been satisfied, including red lines set by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We don’t say the deal is totally in favor of Iran. Any negotiation is a give and take. We have definitely shown some flexibility,” the foreign minister said. “I tell you as I told the supreme leader, we did our best to preserve most of the red lines, if not all.”

The Revolutionary Guards and other hard-liners have started to attack the deal directly, criticizing the UN Security Council resolution passed on Monday endorsing it.

Zarif told lawmakers the UN resolution restricted only missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads, which would not affect Iran’s conventional missile program.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Khamenei on foreign affairs, broke a long silence on Tuesday and said the deal was “not without flaws,” although he did not reject it outright.

“No one can tell us which weapons we can have…. Except nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, Iran will continue making all the missiles, fighter jets, anti-missile defense systems, tanks and other armored equipment it needs,” he was quoted as saying on the supreme leader’s website.

The prospect that sanctions will be lifted is spurring businesses to make plans to return to Iran.

In Paris, Laurent Fabius, who next week will make the first trip to Iran by a French foreign minister in 12 years, said having taken a hard line toward Tehran at the nuclear talks would not hurt France’s businesses once sanctions are lifted.

“It’s true that France was very firm,” Fabius told France Inter radio. “Will French firms be penalized? My answer is no because in the past we had an important presence in Iran… You know, in foreign policy, I think you lose nothing in being respected.”

French firms such as carmaker Peugeot and oil major Total had leading positions in the Iranian market before the United States and European Union imposed tighter sanctions in 2011.

Fabius will travel without an entourage of business leaders, unlike Germany’s economy minister, Gabriel, who took a large commercial delegation to Iran on Sunday as the first senior Western official to visit after the deal was agreed.

Gabriel’s haste drew criticism at home: “Our economy minister wanting to explore business opportunities for German companies a few days after the nuclear deal is a dangerous signal to the region,” said Paul Ziemiak, head of the youth wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, during a visit to Israel.

“Our Israeli partners are irritated at how easily the crises and the problematic role of Iran in the region is overlooked,” Ziemiak said.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post